An exciting future in housing

Policy & Public Affairs Officer Joe Bews joined the NHC nearly two years ago and has recently completed his CIH Housing Level 4 qualification, through the GEM programme.

As part of the NHC’s 50 stories celebration, he reflects on his first year in the sector and how GEM has supported him to develop as a housing professional. He’s picked a few highlights from the past year as well as what he’s excited to see in the sector going forward.

What was your highlight of the year?

Through both the GEM programme and with the NHC, I’ve had the opportunity to get out and about visiting a range of different sites, from Passivhaus certified developments to MMC innovation factories.

I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to visit homes where you can see the tangible positive effects home upgrades such as insulation have had on residents’ lives. It’s brilliant to hear people say how much warmer and happier they are in homes that have been retrofitted, while also benefitting from cheaper bills.

One example of this was a visit I helped to organise with a local MP to an estate in Oldham which had had green home upgrades. I was delighted to see residents explaining the impact it had on their homes and bills to their MP who was able to see the great work of the housing association to improve constituents’ quality of life.

What is the biggest challenge for the housing sector going forward?

It’s well documented that there are various major challenges facing housing at present, but I feel a core challenge we as a sector need to tackle is ensuring there is the political will from policymakers to spur change. At the start of April, YouGov’s poll on the most important issues facing the country showed housing as the public’s fourth most important issue. It’s vital we illustrate that safe, affordable and good quality housing is intrinsically linked to other key issues facing the country such as health, which the public see as the second most important issue facing the country.

Our recent Living in Fear report highlighted the negative impacts living in poor quality housing – particularly during a cost of living crisis – can have on people’s health.

We need to communicate effectively to ensure the sector’s asks are heard and good housing is seen as a pillar of societal development. I think we should also focus on highlighting the ‘successes’ as much as possible to prove what can be done when the sector is supported. 

What do you think is the most important lesson from the past year?

That nothing should take place without listening and consulting with residents first. They are closer to the issue at hand than anyone and know what’s best for them, as one resident said ‘it’s not my house but it is my home’.

What are you most excited about for the future of social housing?

I’m excited about the opportunity we have to position housing at the forefront of a programme of national renewal. By linking health, net zero, levelling up and the cost-of-living to a large-scale initiative of building and upgrading high-quality sustainable homes, we can achieve a huge amount in a sector that is ready to lead the way.

I’m also excited about the prospect of encouraging more diversity in the sector. It’s clear to see that the housing sector could be much more diverse and representative of the residents it serves. I think improving diversity at all levels will only result in positive impacts for people living in social housing and should be a key focus for the sector going forward.